This week several armed members of the Oath Keepers—a controversial group of current and former military, police, and public safety officials who have pledged not to obey unconstitutional orders—showed up at the protests against police violence in Ferguson, Missouri. They're there to protect two reporters from the conspiracy-chasing website Infowars; they do not appear to have any plans broader than that. During the city's riots last year, members of the organization stationed themselves on rooftops with rifles and fire extinguishers, announcing that they intended to protect local businesses.
Several fragments of footage have been floating around the Internet since the group returned this week, including one memorable video in which an Oath Keeper announces his belief that Donald Trump will "get rid of these people who violate our rights" if he's elected. There's also a Vine that supposedly shows an Oath Keeper telling suspicious protesters "We've got your back," though I've got to confess I can't make out anything anyone's saying in it.
But the most interesting clip I've seen this week is this one. Initially it just seems to be a shouting match between an Oath Keeper and a guy who doesn't like the group. But at the 1:43 mark, it turns into an explicit statement from the Oath Keeper about police violence:
Here's a transcript of the man's impromptu speech:
Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland, Ohio, was shot by a cop who never should've had a badge. That's the truth. He had an airsoft gun in his hand.
A man on the streets of New York was choked out—was choked out—for not paying his cigarette tax. I ask you a question: Since when, since when, is the penalty for not paying a cigarette tax the death penalty in the United States of America. OK? Since when?
You want to talk about killing black people? I'll talk about it. What about the guy in Cleveland that was in a Walmart holding a pellet rifle, not bothering a single soul, and a policeman runs in and shoots him dead?
Who else do we need to talk about? How many more before we come together and stop this chickenshit bullshit and come together as people and say: Enough of this. Enough of this violence. How many times?
How many times has this got to happen? They killed a white veteran in North Carolina, broke into his home and shot him. They killed a white mental health patient in New Albuquerque [sic], shot him in the back, and the officer's on film on his sergeant's car saying, "I'm gonna shoot that guy the first chance I get." You know? And it just goes on and on and on.
Jon Belmar, the St. Louis County police chief, has described the group's presence in Ferguson as "both unnecessary and inflammatory." St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger has said he wants to "insure" the Oath Keepers "are not present in the future."